In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, he also created Adam and Eve. They were sinless in their initial state. But when God gave them a command not to eat a given fruit, through temptation and choice they both rebelled against God’s command and sin and it’s penalty of death entered the world through the one man Adam. Every descendant of his is tainted not only with original sin but with personal sin as well; and thus every descendant of Adam needs salvation which they cannot make on their own. But God being rich in mercy sent his only Son to take on humanity and to live a perfect life, so that he might be a substitute. Jesus the Son of God died upon a cross without sin, but he paid the death penalty, not only in his flesh but in his spiritual separation from God so that we who have sinned could gain his righteousness. God has so decreed that if anyone believes in Jesus Christ and receives Him, our sins are forgiven and our death sentence is paid. I believe in Jesus Christ and have come to Him as my savior and my Lord.
This is a simple gospel, it is the very power of God to save souls when they believe. It is also a simple task to witness to this gospel – though we are sinfully reluctant to do so.
A year or two ago, I gave you a card and asked you to write down at least three to five names of people whom you either did not know if they knew Jesus Christ or you wanted to Know if they did or you had reason to suspect they did not. The goal was that we would both pray for them and share Christ with them.
If you still have that card in your Bible I want you to take it out, if you haven’t got that card, there should be a blank card in the pew, I invite you to take one and simply write their names out, and keep that card where you’ll see it regularly and be reminded to pray for them. I’ve kept such a card in my Bible for years – long before I came even here I’ve had a card with names in my Bible – but not as a book mark, it is a constant reminder to me to pray for them that God in his Mercy might open their eyes, free them from their prison, draw them to Christ and grant them saving faith.
God’s word teaches us to pray for the Lost
But it may be that praying for the lost isn’t really on your radar, and to that I want simply to show a few examples. Moses, Isaiah, Jesus.
First let’s consider Moses. When the 12 spies returned from touring the promised land and 10 of them gave a bad report, the people of Israel rebelled, And God was angry with them, and yet moses prayed,
Pardon, I pray, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Your lovingkindness, just as You also have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.”
” (Numbers 14:19)
In Isaiah 53:12 the prophet foretells that Jesus himself would pray for the unsaved
… “Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:12)
Even upon the Cross, Jesus’ first of seven “sayings” was “Father, forgive them they do not know what they are doing…” (Luke 23:34)
And last consider the apostle Paul who spoke of his own people saying, “My hearts desire and prayer to God for them is for their salvation” (Rom 10:1)
Let me ask you what your heart’s desire is. What beats at the core of your heart? To crave for less than the salvation of the very people around you is to want much less than God himself wants. If your heart beats for the comforts of this world and does not yearn for the salvation of souls than you do not understand the Love of God.
And so perhaps it may be that our own hearts need to be awakened to the task as well. I know of no better way to gain God’s perspective than to ask for it.
Pray for our own Passion for Souls
A victorious journey doesn’t just begin with taking the steps out the door, but begin with the desire to go at all. One of the great discrepancies confronting the Church in America today is not merely that we must bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who do not know Him but that our own passion for the task has waned.
So as we begin contemplating this morning what it means to pray for the lost and the right way to do so, I cannot help but believe that we must begin with stirring up our own souls to even desire the salvation of souls around us.
It is not a new issue. In the seventeenth century, Puritan Pastor Richard Baxter spoke to his congregation:
Oh, if you have the hearts of Christians or of men in you, let them yearn towards your poor ignorant, ungodly neighbours. Alas, there is but a step betwixt them and death and hell; many hundred diseases are waiting ready to seize on them, and if they die unregenerate, they are lost forever. Have you hearts of rock, that cannot pity men in such a case as this? If you believe not the Word of God, and the danger of sinners, why are you Christians yourselves? If you do believe it, why do you not bestir yourself to the helping of others? Do you not care who is damned, so you be saved? If so, you have sufficient cause to pity yourselves, for it is a frame of spirit utterly inconsistent with grace … Dost thou live close by them, or meet them in the streets, or labour with them, or travel with them, or sit and talk with them, and say nothing to them of their souls, or the life to come? If their houses were on fire, thou wouldst run and help them; and wilt thou not help them when their souls are almost at the fire of hell?1
It is a sorrowful pity that it is true, but too long we labor at personal godliness and worship for our own salvation without regard for the reality that we care nothing for the salvation of others. It may in fact be that you have no issue here and that you daily weep in prayer for those among your families or friends who do not know Christ – if that is you than by all means please busy yourselves at this moment in praying for the ones among us who do not have such a passion.
And May it be God’s grace that enables us to see the world through His eyes.
To this purpose one of my most earnest prayers a few years back was that God would grant me to see people through His eyes, with His love and with His compassion. I still remember the night that it happened, we were sitting down to dinner in the kitchen at the old parsonage, and a song was playing on the radio (“More to this life” by Stephen Curtis Chapman). As I listened to the lyrics speaking of so many passing through life with nothing to live for I was suddenly overwhelmed not with the message of the song but with the broken heart of God for the souls around me. In a moment I envisioned the thousands living within 15 miles of this church and I considered their end. So intense was the sorrow, that I barely had the strength to excuse myself and run to the back room where I sat crying on the floor for so many who do not know Christ. Theresa came and tried to comfort me and I finally had to ask God to relieve me of the very gift I had asked for, the burden was too great to bear. But I have never forgotten it.
Do you have the audacity to ask God to see the world of people through His eyes?
Moses had it when, he begged God in prayer to save Israel.
“But now, if You will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!”” (Exodus 32:32)
Paul had it when he said in Romans 9,
“ For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,” (Romans 9:3)
John Knox cried out, “Give me Scotland or I die!” George Whitfield prayed, “O Lord, give me souls or take my soul.”
“Standing among those who killed Stephen was a young man named Saul of Tarsus. Could it be that the great apostle’s salvation was in answer to Stephen’s prayer, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:60) Evangelism begins with prayer.2
Can we not see that in these men resided the very mind of the Son of God who would willingly go to the cross and suffer an eternity of separation from God the Father through six hours on the cross. We can hear it it Jesus’ cry at the cross, “My God My God why have you forsaken me?”
Because of what Jesus did on that cross in taking our punishment for our sin, we gain his righteousness and His life – with the promise also of His resurrection. It is imperative that we share this good news with those who do not yet know Him.
Moving Forward on Your Knees
If your zeal is gone why don’t you seek it from Him – rather than trying, as we so often do – to drum up the passion on your own. We hear a great sermon, a great lesson or attend a conference and we say to ourselves that “from this day onward, we are going to live like Jesus!” But the music fades, and we get in the car and our thoughts turn to lunch and we soon forget the desire.
Praying for the Lost is something we must do, but we will not pursue it over the long haul until it is a passion from God. It may be that we first need to restore our passion for souls before we can get busy about our Father’s business.
Now then as the Lord permits we shall look next at some specific biblical prayers to pray for the Lost.
Praying For The Lost
Moving Forward on Your Knees
Trust God for the impossible (Mark 10:27)
Pray for the lost with all types of prayers (1 Tim 2:1ff)
Ask God to open their eyes (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)
Ask God to convict them of sin and righteousness (John 16:8)
Ask God to Draw them to Him. (John 6:44,65)
Pray against their resistance (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)
Ask God to Send you or Someone, ANYONE to share Christ with them. (Matt 10:1ff)
Pray for the Words to say to them (Colossians 4:2-3)
Pray For God to be glorified (2 Thessalonians 3:1)
1MacArthur, J. (1995). Alone with God. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
2MacArthur, J. (1995). Alone with God. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.